in April when we began From The Road, we met Bill Weigelt. I promised
we'd meet his wife at a later date. We keep promises around here.
Martha Weigelt grew up on a
farm in Claverack, but not just any farm, one of the oldest in the
county, still operated by the same family. The land her brother now
farms was originally purchased from the Van Rensselaers around 1750.
She grew up doing chores, "I
took care of the chickens mostly. It gave me a work ethic, responsibility,"
she smiles. She also learned to knit and sew by the age of ten, "When
you grow up on a farm there isn't too much to play with, especially
after the Depression." She made clothes for her dolls and herself,
some out of old feedbags. "I love old," she says, referring to the
furnishings in her house almost entirely hand-me-downs from the family.
"My kitchen table is the one my grandmother used to cut celery on."
One day Bill's family bought
the neighboring farm and moved in. Martha went ten years without ever
meeting him; she'd heard he was a brat. Then Bill went off to the
army. When he returned, Bill and Martha finally met and she discovered
he wasn't such a brat after all. Three years later they were married
and they set about raising a family, seven children in all.
One day in 1976, the wife of
the minister at her church asked if Martha would help out with their
Annual Bazaar. The Philmont Reformed Church always holds their Annual
Bazaar on the first Saturday in October. This year it's October 7th
from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and it promises to be a lot of fun.
Soon after Martha got involved,
she suggested they set up shop at her house. There's even a carved
sign in the large workroom announcing, "Martha's Craft Shop".
"Sometimes we call it the sweat
shop," she jokes.
Every Tuesday beginning on the
first Tuesday after Easter and continuing until the Annual Bazaar
on first Saturday in October, Martha and nine or ten other ladies
voluntarily meet at Martha's to make dolls and other crafts for the
Bazaar. These ladies are dedicated; they even arrive early to work.
They treat themselves to coffee and cake, work hard and have a great
time. One of the ladies sole job is quality control. "She's darn good
at it, too. She doesn't miss a thing. I couldn't do it without these
ladies," Martha is proud to state. "They're the best, just the best."
What's most amazing is that
these ladies are volunteers and receive no pay for their work; all
proceeds from the sale of dolls and crafts at the Annual Bazaar benefit
the church. The Annual Bazaar is now one of the biggest fundraisers
the church has going. It's heartwarming to know there are still people
who possess a selfless, giving nature. Their payment is in the pride,
in the joy I see reflected in Martha's eyes as she shows me the vast
array of dolls and crafts already completed.
The workroom is filled, floor
to ceiling with yarn and fabric. Drawers, too, all labeled; feathers,
piping, doll shoes, buttons, pipe cleaners, seam tape, heavy duty
thread, silver trims, the list is endless. So too are the dolls. There's
a huge assortment of witches and bats, pumpkins and crows, hen doorstops,
bears galore, mouse people, Amish and Immigrant dolls, elephants and
horses and enough Christmas dolls to make Santa's eyes sparkle. There
are children's sweaters, clog socks, placemats, even Barbie Beds.
Martha's Craft Shop is a fun
place; it abounds with the spirit that went into creating these marvelous
"Do you ever think maybe they
come alive at night?" I ask.
She flashes me that mischievous
smile that must have stolen Bill's heart more than fifty years ago,
"I don't know about that, but they have personalities, they take on
a life of their own."
"Think you'll ever quit making
"Long as I have my hands and
my eyesight I'll keep making them."
It's my turn to smile, "Good,"
We'll talk next time, From the
to Road Archive